Category Archives: Public Safety and Security

Drilling Down – International Aviation Issues Come Home

ACI-NA President and CEO Kevin M. Burke (second from right) discusses international security challenges at the 23rd AVSEC World

ACI-NA President and CEO Kevin M. Burke (second from right) discusses international security challenges at the 23rd AVSEC World.  Other panelists from left: Jim Marriott, deputy director aviation security and facilitation, ICAO; Calin Rovinescu, CEO, Air Canada; Jeff Poole, director general, CANSO; and Tony Tyler, director general and CEO, IATA.

Kevin M. Burke
ACI-NA President and CEO

A few weeks ago, I participated on a panel discussion during the 23rd AVSEC World, where I had the privilege to discuss the challenges in meeting future security demands amidst an uncertain global political climate with the heads of IATA, CANSO, and Air Canada, as well as ICAO’s deputy director of aviation security and facilitation.  As the panel’s sole airports representative, it was a valuable opportunity for me to share our industry’s perspective and recommendations for ensuring safe and secure commercial air travel, especially in an era of constrained governmental resources.

In both the United States and Canada, federal budgetary limitations continue to squeeze staffing levels at security checkpoints and international arrivals areas.  Meanwhile, recent alerts and threats pertaining to commercial air travel have resulted in increased security screening procedures.  This combination of factors has created quite the conundrum for North America’s airports: they’ve been tasked to do much more with much less, and failure is not an option.  In a perfect world, American and Canadian airports would be fully funded to carry out the security and facilitation initiatives mandated by Washington and Ottawa.  In reality, the fiscal environments in which our airports operate demand creative and collaborative solutions favoring the risk-based over the redundant.

Take for example the Transportation Security Administration’s (TSA) PreCheck program.  From a practical perspective, PreCheck harnesses available data—provided by passengers on a voluntary basis—and intelligence information to serve as an indicator to guide the application of screening resources.  From the passenger’s perspective, it’s even more straightforward—no need to remove shoes, acceptable liquids, and other items that can slow down the line.  As I expressed to my fellow AVSEC World panelists, ACI-NA fully supports PreCheck, and we’ve been working with TSA to significantly increase enrollment.

Similarly regarding facilitation, ACI-NA has been a strong proponent of U.S. Customs and Border Protection’s (CBP) Global Entry and the Canada Border Services Agency’s NEXUS programs, and we’ve encouraged the expansion of reciprocal agreements with other countries in order allow their citizens to participate in trusted-traveler programs.  We’ve also championed collaborative technologies to reduce administrative burdens, most notably the Automated Passport Control (APC) kiosks and the Mobile Passport Control (MPC) smartphone app.  Like PreCheck, these initiatives have resulted in measurable gains for participating airports, their federal partners, and the passengers they serve.

ACI-NA’s International Aviation Issues Seminar, December 4-5 in Washington, is an opportunity to continue the conversation started at AVSEC World, and I’m pleased to note that our keynote address will be delivered by CBP’s acting assistant commissioner, John Wagner, who has been instrumental to realizing APC and MPC.  I hope that you’re able to join us and representatives from across the aviation community as we continue to discuss challenges and explore solutions in an increasingly complex world.

Earth Week 2014: Earth Day is Every Day for Our #GreenAirports

by Kevin M. Burke
President and CEO

While airports are committed to advancing sustainability and the environment year-round, we carve out some special times to mark accomplishments and celebrate environmental excellence. This week is one of those times.

The ACI-NA Environmental Affairs Committee just finished its Spring Conference jointly with ACI-NA’s Business Information Technology and Public Safety & Security committees in Baltimore ― a triple play that speaks to the sustainability-related synergies shared by all our airport business lines. The trio of conferences focused on such sustainability topics as airport business continuity planning, developing wireless networks for the future, and efficient wildlife management technologies.

The Environmental Spring Conference highlighted the vision of a “sustainable airport system” being advanced by the Environmental Affairs Committee and its incoming chair Phil Ralston, general manager of aviation environmental and safety at Portland International Airport. This vision explores the issues, conditions and factors that go beyond environmental matters and outlines the responsibility ACI-NA has for creating a sustainable airport system.

Today’s green airport supports a wide variety of triple-bottom line initiatives, from advanced stormwater detention systems and use of alternative energy systems to power airport operations and reduce emissions, to development of wildlife management areas and community arts programs on airport property.  A sampling of these sustainability advances is being featured in guest blog posts this week from airports in both the U.S. and Canada, and I hope you check back in to discover an exciting array of Earth-friendly initiatives.

Also, there’s still time to enter submissions for the 2014 ACI-NA Environmental Achievement Awards. The Committee is expanding the awards program to recognize an individual for the Outstanding Individual Contribution and Leadership award in addition to the Achievement Awards for airport projects. The deadline is next Thursday, May 1.

Green initiatives like these are under way every day at airports across North America, illustrating that Airports for the Future understand, and practice, the key drivers of the triple bottom line – economic, environment and community sustainability.

Lawmakers Share Their Insights

By Tom Smith
During last week’s ACI-NA/AAAE Washington Legislative Conference, while federal officials reviewed their past accomplishments it is worth noting their forward-looking observations on the 2015 FAA reauthorization and the TSA.

Participating in the Thursday briefings of airport directors were FAA Deputy Administrator Michael Whitaker, Sen. Kelly Ayotte, (R-N.H.), Sen. Dan Coats, (R-Ind.), Rep. Michael McCaul, (R-Texas), Rep. Richard Hudson, (R-N.C.), and Rep. Nick Rahall (D-W.Va.).

On FAA reauthorization
The FAA is taking a “systematic approach” within the organization looking for changes that will enable it to operate more efficiently and effectively, Whitaker said. “We need to invest in airports to stay competitive internationally and meet demand,” he said. “We need to invest in new technology.”

With reauthorization 500 days away, Ayotte said now is the time for stakeholders, including airports, to provide their feedback as to what they want to see changed or included in the new law. Congress needs your help to make “common sense” decisions that will shape the nation’s aviation policy, she said.

“We want to hear from you. Reach out to my office on ways we can do things better,” said Ayotte, the ranking Republican on the Senate Aviation Subcommittee.

The biggest obstacles to the next FAA bill will the “remnants of the last time,” said Rahall, “primarily the funding levels.” Rahall, the ranking Democrat on the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, noted he is working to preserve the Essential Air Service (EAS) program “so it does not become ESA,” an Endangered Species Act.

“I have been critical of TSA Administrator John Pistole when he did not get enough stakeholder input, especially on the exit lane plan,” said Hudson, chairman of the House Homeland Security Transportation Subcommittee and the 2014 Commissioner’s Congressional Leadership Award honoree. “I have asked him to work with me and stakeholders” to develop a long-term plan for the exit lanes – one that would reduce the use of TSA officers and provide airports with the funds to use new technology. “I have his commitment to come to the table. It is a win-win-win.”

Hudson, McCaul and Ayotte noted a study is needed to improve the use of technology at exit lanes.

The TSA’s acquisition of technology has been plagued with problems that waste airport resources. Ayotte noted she is the Senate sponsor of a bill that has already won unanimous House approval to reform the TSA’s technology program so that there is greater transparency and accountability also with common sense reforms. This reform needs greater participation of the private sector, she said.

McCaul noted his “pet project” is to get the private sector more involve with the TSA, in particular the private screening program. “I think the private sector can do a better job. We should make it easier for you to apply for private screeners if that is what you want to do. They will save taxpayers’ dollars and they maybe more efficient,” said McCaul, chair of the House Homeland Security Committee.

Both Coats and Hudson observed that Homeland Security is now operating in a different budgetary environment than when it was created. A smaller foot print is needed.

The proposed DHS budget is 4 percent less than last year, said Coats, the ranking Republican on the Senate Appropriation Subcommittee on Homeland Security. There are proposed user fee hikes in the Obama budget that would fund program expansions. “There are considerable political issues that need to be overcome,” he said. “The proposal doesn’t have majority support in either House and we will need to look at what we can shift in the budget.”

One-Size-Fits-All Must Give Way to Risk-Based Security

By Christopher Bidwell
By 2024, the FAA predicts that the U.S. commercial aviation industry will transport over 1 billion passengers annually. With increasing passenger and cargo volumes and limited resources in the US, Canada and internationally, a risk-based aviation security system just makes sense. TSA has developed and implemented a risk-based known traveler program, PreCheck, which utilizes available data to assess risk and focus screening resources on those passengers about whom the least is known, and Transport Canada has a similar system.

We also need to abandon the “one-size-fits-all” approach to regulation and transition from prescriptive to performance-based security measures, and this is an area where Transport Canada is leading the charge.

International coordination and collaboration is critical to allow us to formalize risk-based initiatives, address the global aviation security challenge and develop a sustainable aviation system where passengers can transit seamlessly across international borders.

This afternoon, at the ACI-NA Annual Conference in Calgary, a panel of senior representatives from TSA, Transport Canada, ACI Europe and Embry Riddle Aeronautical University tackled these and other topics.

In discussing the programs TSA has launched to transition from a one-size fits all approach to aviation security, Doug Hofsass, associate administrator for risk-based security, discussed the expansion of TSA’s known traveler program, PreCheck, which is currently operational at 23 airports, and the plan to further expand the program to an additional 12 airports in 2012. To date, more than 2.7 million passengers have experienced expedited screening through TSA PreCheck screening lanes and TSA anticipates screening the 3 millionth passenger next week.

In order to expand the number of passengers eligible to participate in PreCheck and in accordance with an ACI-NA recommendation, Hofsass encouraged enrollment in Customs and Border Protection’s international trusted traveler programs, Global Entry and NEXUS.

Hofsass also mentioned the known crewmember program, through which uniformed pilots are subjected to identity-based screening and provided expedited access to sterile areas. The program is currently in place at 20 airports. By the end of the year, TSA plans to have the program in place and operational at 31 airports, including 28 Category X airports.

Another expansion of its risk-based security initiative involves enhancements to the screening of passengers 70 and older, who no longer need to remove light coats and jackets or their shoes. This program also allows children 12 and under to keep their shoes on when being screened at security checkpoints. After a pilot test at several large airports, the program was expanded to airports nationwide.

Although rudely interrupted by the clanging of a fire alarm bell being tested during the session, Erin O’Gorman, director general, aviation security, Transport Canada, mentioned that Canada has already begun to implement several initiatives outlined in the Beyond the Border Action Plan, jointly signed by Prime Minister Stephen Harper and President Barrack Obama. First, special lanes have been put in place at Canadian Pre-Clearance airports for NEXUS members. Second, Canada and the U.S. reached an agreement to mutually recognize their cargo security programs. Third, but definitely not last, Canada and the U.S. are collaborating on the development of known and trusted traveler programs, something that will allow Canadian NEXUS card holders to benefit from TSA PreCheck at some point in the future.

It was also refreshing to hear O’Gorman recount a recent discussion with Transport Canada inspectors who reported that the relationship with industry has transformed into a security partnership.

O’Gorman also raised the potential challenge of resilience of the aviation system in the face of some threat we haven’t seen or considered, and suggested that the political will to accept a certain amount of risk may be tested in the face of a future incident. Hopefully, the progress that has been made in advancing risk-based initiatives will not be jeopardized by some unforeseen event.

If and when we in the aviation community are faced with the next incident, we simply cannot abandon risk-based security measures. To do so would result in a regression to the costly and inefficient one-size-fits-all approach we striving diligently to abandon.

Olivier Jankovec, ACI Europe director general, mentioned that our system is still very reactive, particularly in Europe, and therefore, there are a lot of inefficiencies even though a substantial amount of data and intelligence information exists which could be leveraged to inform and focus limited screening resources.

In Europe, airports – not the government(s) – provide almost all the aviation security operational costs. Indeed, 29 percent of airports operating costs and 41 percent of airports staff are security related. With security costs increasing exponentially, there is even more need for a coordinated approach to aviation security.

Richard Bloom, associate vice president, academics, Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University indicated that risk-based security can be a challenge in the absence of information or data. He also suggested that most people tend to focus on the defensive security layers as opposed to offensive “tools” such as intelligence information, which can be utilized to help eradicate the threat.

Clearly, based on several recent events, we need to leverage every aspect of available intelligence information. Enhanced coordination and communication between countries, sharing pertinent security information can certainly help in filling in the missing pieces of the puzzle thus helping to mitigate threats.

Bloom also indicated that terrorism can be very effective because of the psychological impact on the survivors. He also mentioned that security is always an unfinished task.

As aviation traffic continues to grow, we need a risk-based aviation security system that uses available data to more effectively balance customer service and detection. Information is available at multiple points that can be readily utilized to help focus limited security resources on those about which the least is known. Collectively, we need to work together – across international borders – to address the global aviation security challenge through risk-based security measures and programs.



Obama’s Travel and Tourism Initiatives Follow ACI-NA’s Requests

By Channon Hanna
On Thursday, President Obama travelled to Walt Disney World in Orlando to announce new initiatives to increase travel and tourism to the United States.  Among the initiatives announced were visa reform, Global Entry expansion and promotion, and the expansion of the visa waiver program— all of which are key reforms that ACI-NA has advocated for years and has worked to advance through the ACI-NA Facilitation Committee, the U.S. International Air Service Program and the U.S Government Affairs Committee.  ACI-NA President Greg Principato also sent a letter to President Obamacommending these initiatives.

In front of Cinderella’s Castle in Walt Disney World, President Obama on Thursday announced his new initiatives to increase travel and tourism.

During his address, President Obama reminded the audience that the U.S. tourism and travel industry is a substantial component of U.S. gross domestic product and employment, representing 2.7 percent of GDP and 7.5 million jobs in 2010.  The President emphasized that these initiatives are a part of the administration’s comprehensive effort to help spur job creation.

Highlights of the initiatives include:

  • Increasing non-immigrant visa processing capacity in China and Brazil by 40 percent in 2012.
    • As a part of this initiative, the Departments of State and Homeland Security announced a pilot program to simplify and speed up the non-immigrant visa process for certain applicants, including the ability to waive interviews for some very low-risk applicants, such as persons applying for visa renewals.
  • Ensuring that 80 percent of non-immigrant visa applications are interviewed within three weeks of receipt of application.
  • Increasing the efforts to expand the Visa Waiver Program and travel by nationals eligible to participate in program.
    • The Secretary of State has formally requested that the Secretary of Homeland Security consider Taiwan for participation in the program.
  • Final Rule on the Global Entry program which will make it permanent and expand the program to four additional airports — Minneapolis, Charlotte, Denver and Phoenix.  This expansion would mean expedited clearance would be available to approximately 97 percent of international travelers. ACI-NA submitted comments to the administration in support of making the Global Entry program permanent.

These initiatives by the President are a great start to increasing international visitors to the United States. ACI-NA will continue to work with the administration and Congress to develop strategies which will enhance the security and the efficiency of the international arrivals process and attract international visitors to the United States.